Photo courtesy of Natural Bridge Caverns

Spelunkers now have a new cave to explore at the state’s largest cavern: Natural Bridge Cavernsnewest tour, Hidden Wonders, will launch on Friday, May 12.

The new tour will allow visitors to access an area that was previously accessible only by cavers. Development of this second cavern has been in the works since 2017. It was previously sealed under the Earth’s surface, perfectly preserving the natural environment and its beautiful, unique formations.

“In developing this area of the cavern system, we have both pursued and established best-case practices for working in this delicate environment,” said Natural Bridge Caverns president Brad Wuest in a statement. “Our goal is to give visitors a stunning view of the cavern like never before, without impacting its beauty.”

The multimillion-dollar expansion into never-before-seen areas of the cave will feature state-of-the-art lighting and a unique sound and light show. Public passageways expanded by 1,100 feet with a new stainless steel bridge that crosses the cavern’s deepest area.

Additionally, a new 5,700-square-foot dome chamber, dubbed the Ballroom, has been constructed to serve as an event space. For the light show, a viewing area called the Box Canyon will serve as a natural theater.

Wuest explained that certain aspects of developing the cavern had been a challenge, such as the depth of the new touring area. Fortunately, they were able to construct a new exit tunnel "with minimal impact on the cavern."

"We used best-in-class techniques and developed new ones to make it work," he said. "We took the time to do it right. The result speaks for itself.”

To exit the Hidden Wonders tour, visitors will take a glorious ride on a pioneering conveyor system ride, the Belt Assisted Transport, to the surface through the newly constructed tunnel.

“We plan to showcase the science behind the beauty of this once hidden cavern on our tour,” said Wuest. “With Hidden Wonders’ many enhancements, we have an opportunity to both educate and entertain.”

More information about the new tour can be found on naturalbridgecaverns.com. The visitor's center at the caverns is located at 26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd., San Antonio.

Photo courtesy of Merlin Entertainments

Popular Peppa Pig prepares new theme park for Dallas-Fort Worth

Family Attraction

The Dallas-Fort Worth area will soon get even more Peppa Pig with the addition of the Peppa Pig Theme Park, scheduled to open in North Richland Hills in 2024.

When it debuts, it will become the second-ever Peppa Pig Theme Park in the world, following one that opened in Lakeland, Florida in early 2022. It will also be an expansion of the Peppa Pig brand in Dallas-Fort Worth, as Peppa Pig World of Play opened at Grapevine Mills in 2019.

The theme park, which is aimed at younger children, will be a standalone attraction featuring multiple rides, interactive attractions, themed playscapes, and shows.

Peppa Pig Theme Park is the second major amusement park to be announced for the Dallas-Fort Worth area in recent months, following the notice in January 2023 about a Universal Studios theme park coming to Frisco.

The park comes from Merlin Entertainments, which also owns brands like LEGOLAND, Madame Tussauds, and SEA LIFE Aquariums. Their licensing agreement with Hasbro allows them to build and operate Peppa Pig attractions targeted at the preschool market.

"Given the incredible success of our LEGOLAND Discovery Center and SEA LIFE Aquarium in Grapevine, TX, the North Richland Hills community was a natural next step in our expansion and rollout,” said Chief Executive Officer of Merlin Entertainments Scott O’Neil in a statement.

According to a statement from North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Trevino, the new theme park will be located next to the pre-existing NRH2O Family Water Park, making the area even more of a draw.

"North Richland Hills is known for its family-friendly amenities and activities and we could not be more thrilled to add Peppa Pig Theme Park to the mix," said Trevino in a statement. "This will be a great addition to our community.”

The exact opening date for the park has not yet been determined. Fans can sign up for Peppa Pig Theme Park emails at peppapigthemepark.com/dallas-ft-worth to be among the first to hear new details and get a sneak peek at all the new park will have to offer.

Photo by Mason Aschenbrenner

AEG presents Wheel of Fortune Live

AEG will present Wheel of Fortune Live, an all-new theatrical experience that is the one-and-only way fans can experience the popular game show in person outside of Sony Pictures Studios.

At Wheel of Fortune Live guests can try out to go on stage with the chance to spin a replica of the iconic Wheel and solve the puzzles on the tour’s puzzleboard to win fantastic prizes, including up to $10,000 in cash, a trip to Paris, Hawaii and more at every show.

Image courtesy of Cosm

Grandscape in The Colony scores 2nd-ever location of immersive entertainment venue

Images on a Grand Scale

Cosm, which touts itself as a global leader in experiential media and immersive technology, will build its second-ever public entertainment venue at Grandscape in The Colony.

According to a November 16 press release, the venue "will bring entertainment to life through its state-of-the-art technology, seamlessly bridging the gap between virtual and physical realities."

In the announcement on their site about the first venue in Los Angeles, the company says that they use domed and compound curved LED technology so guests can experience immersive content across a variety of programming categories, including live sports and entertainment, experiential events, immersive art, music, and more.

What exactly that will look like or how big the venue will be are somewhat of a mystery at this point, although concept photos and a sizzle reel give some indication. There is also no word on when the Grandscape location - which will be in the heart of the mixed-use complex - will open; the Los Angeles venue will soon start construction, with the aim to open in 2024.

The venue is being designed by Dallas-based architects HKS, which designed AT&T Stadium in Arlington, American Airlines Center in Dallas, and SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, among other major projects.

Grandscape is already home to a variety of entertainment venues, including Immersive Gamebox, Andretti Indoor Karting & Games, and Galaxy Theatres.

“We are excited to have Cosm join the Grandscape family," said Jeff Lind, President of Grandscape, in a statement. "This innovative venue will thrill visitors in a true one-of-a-kind immersive experience.”

Wheel of Fortune Live spins into Dallas-Fort Worth with puzzles, prizes, and celebrity host

Give It A Spin

We’re all subject to the wheel of fortune, but not all get to watch it turn onstage. North Texans are the lucky ones on January 24 January 24, 2023, when “Wheel of Fortune Live” comes to the Texas Trust CU Theatre at Grand Prairie.

The “theatrical experience” is not exactly the same as the long-running game show — since it’s not broadcast — but there are still opportunities to win big prizes.

The Sony Pictures Television-backed stage show is the only official experience outside of the filmed show, and it’s traveling across the country to make sure everyone gets a chance to see it. Apart from the stop in Dallas-Fort Worth, the tour will also stop in Cedar Park near Austin on January 25, and San Antonio on January 26-27.

Although iconic hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White are sitting this one out, there will be new celebrities carrying the torch.

Antiques Roadshow host Mark L. Walberg and singer Clay Aiken will split hosting duties depending on the date, and it is yet undecided who will host at any of the four Texas shows. The wheel, of course, will be there — or at least a replica. Audience members will be invited to compete for prizes including $10,000 in cash and trips abroad.

Wheel of Fortune (referring to a metaphor hundreds of years old, which compares fate to a wheel that ensures someone will not always be up or down) has been on air since 1975, now encompassing a catalog of several thousands of episodes. Amazingly, the show changes very little from episode to episode, but has kept viewers entertained with endless puzzles. Some younger viewers may vaguely recognize the show or newly engage with it, especially thanks to a new celebrity variation, which has cultural icons like Snoop Dogg making questionable guesses like “baking onions.”

Three contestants face a series of crossword-like word puzzles, which they need to solve by guessing letters as allowed by a buying system. For each turn, they spin the wheel of fortune, which randomly lands on a dollar amount, prize, or penalty.

The touring show is appropriate for all ages, organizers say.

Presale for “Wheel of Fortune Live” ($34.50) in Grand Prairie is open now. General sales open on November 18 at 10 am. Visit wheeloffortunelive.com to see all dates and link to tickets.

Courtesy of Susan Hilferty

Texas museum displays Broadway's 'Wicked' best costumes in new exhibition

Costume Party

As Glinda the Good Witch says in the iconic Wicked opening, let us "rejoiceify" with a San Antonio museum's newest exhibit — Something Wicked/Susan Hilferty Costumes.

Hilferty is the costume design mastermind behind the Tony Award-winning costumes in the hit Broadway musical, from Glinda's resplendent blue ballgown to Elphaba's magical finale dress. They're just two of the incredible array of Hilferty costumes currently on display at the McNay Art Museum. Other costumes spotted were vibrant Ozian outfits, Glinda's pink 'Popular' dress, the Wizard's green suit, and more.

McNay guests can also immerse themselves in the worlds of other musicals Hilferty has designed costumes for, including Annie, Wonderland, and Lestat. There are thirty of Hilferty's brilliant costumes to view in total.

Hilferty has also been confirmed as a guest at the McNay Art Museum's annual Tobin Distinguished Lecture, which will take place on Thursday, March 23, 2023. (Guests can purchase tickets for the lecture on the McNay website closer to the event date).

The Tony Award-winning costume and set designer collaborated with R. Scott Blackshire, Ph.D., curator of the Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts to create a truly enchanting experience that will officially be housed at the McNay until Sunday, March 26th, 2023.

Dr. Blackshire had nothing but praise for the exciting collaboration, noting in an official statement that, "Helping [Hilferty] honor the makers, artisans, knitters, fabric painters, and others who bring her designs to the stage was a privilege. Susan relies on creative collaboration for every production she designs."

The importance of the exhibition for San Antonio's prosperous theater community was not lost on Dr. Blackshire, who also stated, "The community of San Antonio theater makers who visit the exhibition will find many of their art forms represented and reflected in the costumes."

Something Wicked/Susan Hilferty Costumes is now open to the public in the Tobin Theatre Arts and Brown Galleries at the McNay Art Museum until March 23, 2023.

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Fun Japanese dollar store Daiso tees up 4 new Dallas-area locations

Shopping News

Japanese dollar store Daiso, the global retail chain offering items at throwaway low prices, is opening a new round of stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the coming months, including Dallas, Garland, Richardson, and Watauga.

Watagua comes online first: Located at Watauga Towne Crossing, the store will open September 30 with a grand opening that will last all weekend long.

Other stores coming to the DFW area include:

  • Richardson, at 1310 W. Campbell Rd.
  • Dallas, at the Shops at Park Lane
  • Garland - Shiloh Springs Shopping Center at 6850 N. Shiloh Rd.

Daiso was founded in Japan in 1977 and carries thousands of products: kitchenware, beauty supplies, stationery, wrapping paper, electronic accessories, greeting cards, party favors, and plushie toys, plus exotic-ish snacks such as wasabi peanuts.

Probably 90 percent of what they sell is disposable plastic trinkets, and there's lots of pink. Most items are under $10.

Our 2017 shopper guide suggested the following:

"They have clamps and clips in different sizes, if you need them for opened bags of chips or if you want to string something up from the ceiling. My kids like mechanical pencils, and they have them in varying softness of leads. If you went to Staples, you might pay $5. So I stock up on office supplies, papers, ceramic cups, plastic containers, and sticky notes.

They have good candy, including soft jellies in unusual flavors like tomato and regular flavors like mango or strawberry. They sell my favorite candy of all time, a candy version of this Japanese soda called Ramune. The candy is soft and chalky, and melts in your mouth."

They first debuted in DFW in 2015 with a store in Carrollton, and have since opened locations in Irving, Plano, Frisco, Euless, Grapevine, Fort Worth, Arlington, and Dallas at Mockingbird Commons.

Daiso Chief Development Officer John Clarke says, "Texas based Daiso customers have shown us through our online business and social media their desire for us to have more stores within the state, influencing our immediate growth strategy in this region. We currently operate 104 units in 7 states with more states opening in 2024."

Gamestop stock saga gets fun, star-filled movie treatment with Dumb Money

The stock market feels like one of those aspects of American life that only a select few truly understand. The rest of us acknowledge it as something that exists and affects our lives in some way, but how and why any particular stock is traded and becomes more (or less) valuable can be a complete mystery.

Dumb Money tackles one of the most interesting recent stories to come out of the stock market, the surprising inflation of Gamestop stock in late 2020/early 2021. The film bounces around to a variety of characters, but centers mostly on Keith Gill (Paul Dano), a YouTuber who went by the name of Roaring Kitty. Gill, an amateur stock trader, took an early position about liking the lightly-regarded Gamestop stock, regularly posting videos and on the Reddit thread WallStreetBets about how his significant investment in the stock was doing.

Concurrently, hedge fund managers like Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) were actively trying to short, or bet against, the stock. That began a battle by Gill and other similarly-minded individual investors to fight back against what they saw as unfair trading practices by the big firms, resulting in Gamestop’s stock rising astronomically in a relatively short period of time.

Directed by Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) and written by Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo, the film is notable for what it is not, a deep dive into the inner workings of the stock market. Instead of getting into the nitty gritty details, the filmmakers treat it as the ultimate David vs. Goliath story, with Gill and other everyday people like a nurse, Jenny (America Ferrera), Gamestop worker Marcus (Anthony Ramos), and college student Harmony (Talia Ryder) going up against billionaires like Plotkin, Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio), Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman), and Vlad Tenev (Sebastian Stan).

Paul Dano in Dumb Money

Photo by Claire Folger/Sony Pictures

Paul Dano in Dumb Money.

It doesn’t hurt that Gill is an eccentric character who wears cat-emblazoned shirts and a headband, and that the Reddit community he inspires communicates primarily in memes, upping the entertainment factor of their side immensely. The story is also a suspense in a way; as the variety of individuals drive the stock ever higher, their net worth – on paper – also grows exponentially, and the longer each of them holds on without selling ups the potential that they could be burned.

Because the real-life event happened during the thick of the pandemic when it was still up in the air as to the full impact of COVID-19, the story takes on a little more significance. Characters mask up regularly, conversations take place on the phone or over Zoom, and a general feeling of unease permeates the film. That may or may not have influenced how certain people approached the situation, but in the context of the film, it definitely seems to play a part.

The back-and-forth between the haves and have-nots takes up so much time in the film that it barely has time for such well-known actors as Shailene Woodley, Dane Dehaan, Olivia Thirlby, and Pete Davidson, among others. Each of them plays a supporting character to one of the main people, and all of them deliver that little something extra in what could have been throwaway roles.

Dano is a chameleonic actor who’s gone between drama and comedy with ease throughout his career. This role is a mixture of both, and he has an effortlessness about him that makes everything he says instantly believable. Rogen is great casting as Plotkin, amiably playing the buffoon of the story. After her big role in Barbie, Ferrera once again shows that she deserves as many showcases as Hollywood can give her.

Storytellers can rarely go wrong in showing people with little power taking on those with great wealth, and the fact that the story shown in Dumb Money is (mostly) true makes it that much better. You may not understand the stock market any more than you already did at the end, but you’ll be so entertained that it won’t matter.


Dumb Money opens in theaters on September 22.

Pickleball-restaurant with chef-level food paddles into Farmers Branch

Sports News

A new pickleball concept is paddling into Farmers Branch: Called At Fault, it's a pickleball-restaurant facility, opening its first DFW location at 2330 Jett St., in spring 2024.

The concept takes over an ideally located space near I-35 and Valley View Lane, which was previously a mailing services warehouse but more importantly is two blocks from the super-buzzy Mustang Station center.

It's a 40,000 square-foot facility that will offer

  • six indoor and four outdoor courts
  • three bars
  • a 3,600-square-foot restaurant

A release promises it will provide a top-shelf culinary experience: created by renowned Dallas chef John Franke, formerly of Front Burner Restaurants and right now pretty much everyone's go-to consultant guy.

“The menu we’ve created with the At Fault team offers an elevated take on classic favorites across courtside shareables, hearty sandwiches and burgers, salads, as well as a brunch menu with both savory and sweet options,” Franke says in a statement. “There’s truly something for everyone.”

At Fault was founded by entrepreneurial group Chris Kostoulas, Bo Oh, and Dallas-resident Mario Simic, who saw a gap in the pickleball eatertainment space.

“At Fault will be unlike any other pickleball eatertainment facility in DFW, with a scratch-made menu from Chef Franke and elevated cocktails, all within a social, old school vibe,” Simic says. “We welcome players of all skill levels to pick up a paddle for a match or come in to watch your favorite sports team on the big screens while enjoying a beer.”

The facility welcomes those seeking pick-up game on Saturday afternoons as well as corporate team-building events. Especially corporate team-building events.

The name is cute.

“The name At Fault comes from a double entendre on making a mistake or a ‘fault’ in pickleball and we found it to have other playful connotations that help it to stand out from other brands,” Oh says.